On letting go

kermit

Humans have an amazing ability to hold on to things – belongings, grudges, fears – that don’t bring about any positive outcome. In fact, we spend an inordinate amount of time clinging to these things when we would be well served to simply let go. Is this easy? No. Rarely will you find that the important stuff is easy.

You cannot control everything

Control is a myth. Every time humans try to control something disaster results. How many times have the human race tried to control nature with catastrophic consequences? Katrina. Monsanto…

The more we try to control, the more we lose in the process. We hoard goods we don’t need. We modify our food supply. We divert rivers. We manipulate others. To what end?

We significantly complicate ourselves by clinging to stuff. Yet, ultimately we don’t need stuff.

You will find, if you ponder things deeply, that those things that frustrate you most are insignificant in the grand scheme.

Possessions both physical and mental are restraints upon your freedom. By clinging to regret, anger, jealousy and bitterness you condemn yourself to suffering.

“It’s only after you’ve lost everything … that you’re free to do anything.”  – Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Your brain’s primary function is not storage

Your brain is an analytical tool. It is not a storage device. Consider the CPU – or brain – of a computer, it does the processing not the storage. Storage in the world of computing is left to other devices such as hard drives and solid state storage. Were the CPU to be used for storage as well as processing its capacity and capabilities would be exceeded with detrimental results.

Your brain is no different. Should you try to hold on to everything you will soon find your brain is full and can no longer complete the tasks it was designed for. (I am obviously simplifying the brain’s memory functions for this discussion – please bear with me.)

Put simply, reducing the clutter in your brain can help you think more clearly. When you are able to think more clearly, you can be more efficient and creative, and best of all, easier to get along with.

It’s time to drop the emotional baggage

If you are clinging to negative memories and feelings it is time to let go. It won’t be easy. You must understand that this baggage will eventually smother you. To be free you must let go.

I do not have the answers regarding what you will have to do to let go. This is a very personal journey. Here are some ideas that might help you:

As always, search for the simple in everything. You will find that letting go is simpler than holding on.

Note: this post was first published in 2011. It has been reviewed and re-published here.

Three ways to simplify your workday…today

pencils

After years and years of running around chasing my tail I finally realised that the simple way is the only way. Confusion, complexity and stress were my modus operandi. These days I choose the simple path and that all started for me by simplifying my business day. So, here are my three super duper tips to get you started:

1. Turn off notifications

You really don’t need to know about everything that happens as it happens. Sure there are some aspects of your job that will require immediate attention (especially if you’re an air traffic controller) but I have no doubt that you are overwhelmed by notifications that are unimportant.

Are you suffering notification anxiety?

It’s time to disconnect.

Here’s what you need to do right now:

  • Turn off all notifications of new email messages and commit to checking your email inbox only at designated times through the day. Perhaps start checking on the hour, then every 2 hours. I aim to check my inbox only twice per day.
  • Turn off the auto-check feature in your email client. If you don’t see the messages land in your inbox you won’t be tempted to read them right now.
  • Police your usage of social media applications. Perhaps set a time to do this? Say, after you complete a key task. And please turn off the notifications that get sent to your smart phone.

“But wait! There are some messages I really need to know about”

Okay, I admit it sometimes you really are hanging on an important email message. In these cases you need a tool like AwayFind. AwayFind will let you know when certain emails hit your account with a ping to your smart phone. Yes, it’s still a notification but it’s being used intelligently to make your day simpler. One important notification is better than many varied and probably useless notifications.

2. One thing at a time

Multi-tasking is a myth. You cannot, by definition, do more than one thing at a time. At any instant you are only really doing one thing. The trick is learning to dedicate everything you have to that one thing. By focusing intently upon one thing at a time you will find that you do not get anxious about upcoming tasks. Further, your results will be much improved. Half-focus never produces the goods.

At the end of each day, I generally write myself a list of three important tasks for the next day. These are the tasks I will complete before ay others. Often, it’s only the first task that I get to. That’s okay because the first task is always the important one. I focus on that task until it is complete and then I take a break and move on to the next task.

The simplest approach to getting things done is to do one thing at a time.

3. Schedule your breaks

Working right through without any down time is plain stupid. That’s right I said it, stupid. Yeah, yeah, sometimes you’re really busy but that doesn’t make a workday without breaks any less stupid. You simply cannot work most effectively for long periods of time. Eventually fatigue will set in and the quality of your output will diminish. To avoid producing crappy work be sure to schedule rest periods. Here are a few different ways to incorporate scheduled breaks into your day:

  • Schedule breaks every 90 minutes. No matter where you are in your task, take a 15 minute break every 90 minutes
  • Schedule breaks at every task milestone. Take a break every time you get to a pre-determined point in any task you are working on (be sure that the milestones are regular).
  • Schedule sprint/rest intervals. This one takes some experimentation. Set yourself a timer of work and rest intervals. You could try 30 minutes of work followed by 10 minutes of rest or 60 minutes on and 20 minutes off. I recommend a 3:1 ratio.

Don’t feel guilty about taking a break. If anything it will make you better at what you do.

Note: this post was first published in 2011. It has been reviewed and re-published here.